Humor – Against Order and Hierarchy

Humor plays a number of important functions in our everyday lives. It diffuses difficult situations. In a conversation it allows introducing a difficult topic, creating space to maneuver and possibility of retreat in case the other party refuses to step down to a level of sobriety. In personal relationships it helps to acquire an informal connection. At official events it allows to introduce a dab of casual air.
By their nature jokes remain in the opposition to status quo, undermining the existing order and hierarchy and questioning the established values. This opposition, however, can have various characters. The intention of political humor might be to destroy the existing order of things. It is not difficult to image how this type of humor could have an overarching effect on the society. The example of Beppe Grill, Italian comedian turned political activist and a major party leader, proves just how much power humor can have on the word of “seriousness”.
The intention of humor that could be afforded by a Noble Prize laureate at the official award ceremony might be to break the officiousness and formality of the situation.
-Scientific research has a long tradition – said one of the laureates in his speech. – Throughout history people have tried to gain new understanding and searching new paths of cognition. For many an excellent example of such tradition was Christopher Columbus. When Columbus took off to discover America he did know where he would sail to. When he reached the continent, he did not know where he was. And when he returned safely to Europe, he did not know where he had been. And if that wasn’t enough, he didn’t travel using his own money. These all are the dilemmas of modern science.
It appears that Columbus is subjected to sharp criticism. He was seeking knowledge but descended into ignorance. The situation in which he found himself resembles the current state of modern science. The Noble laureate broke with official conventions of the award ceremony, which command the praise of the field of science. However, the criticism of science is at the same time its furtive accolade. Despite the initial error, Columbus did make an epic discovery. It happened because despite the outside financing he was not subjected to complete control. Similarly, if science, sponsored by government money, were to be left alone, it should bear the fruits of epic discoveries. The pretense criticism turns into a compliment. Thus although the Noble laureate deviated from the existing conventions in his acceptance speech, he did not break the rules of etiquette.

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